The long-stagnant, second-level Clubhouse area at Churchill Downs has undergone a $16 million transformation that has turned a large and somewhat shabby space into vibrant, welcoming quarters.
A few final touches remain, such as hanging some artwork, but the revamped sector at the top of the escalators just off Gate 17 will be open to all track-goers starting for simulcast wagering Wednesday, April 5, and then for the track’s spring racing season that leaves the gate April 29, said Ryan Jordan, Churchill Downs Racetrack’s general manager.
“We have a lot more amenities,” Jordan said during an unveiling of the facilities Tuesday morning. “We have doubled the number of restrooms, increased the number of wagering locations and added significantly more concession stations.”
“We have reconfigured the food court area with wider aisles for better circulation and flow. So we should have shorter lines, and people should get their food much, much quicker.”
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Much of the work is cosmetic – and has greatly spiffed up the premises. Wood-like vinyl flooring has been put down in much of the space and tile flooring installed in other areas. Walls have been redone in a combination of mostly neutral colors – including earth tones, greens and white.
The architect on the renovation was R2 Architects of New Jersey, and the chief contractor was Calhoun Construction of Louisville. The track paid for the project out of its own revenues, with no government aid, Jordan said, and work began last November.
The modernization has encompassed most of the 95,000-square-foot Clubhouse area and was designed to improve the track experience for the roughly 13,000 guests that typically enter the space on Oaks or Derby Day, track officials said.
Other updates include:
- The Aristides Lounge – formerly an unfinished space that was occasionally used for select events (including the Kentucky Derby Post Position Draw), “is now a permanent fixture, outfitted with table seating for nearly 300 guests, 27 flat-screen TVs and a full-service bar.”
- The Loft at Aristides Lounge – above the Aristides Lounge and accessed by a new staircase and elevator, designed to offer intimate dining with table seating for more than 300 guests, 38 flat-screen TVs and full-service bar.
- Champions Bar and Gold Room – an area exclusive to VIP bettors and horsemen, features seating for more than 240 guests and almost 100 TVs. The Champions Bar features 38 bar seats, 114 table seats and 46 TVs. “The Gold Room is a Las Vegas sports book-style area with 49 flat-screen TVs, 48 carrel seats, 28 table seats and 13 countertop seats, each outfitted with new Bet Pro betting machines,” the track said.
- The Champions Bar and Gold Room Balcony – offers a view of the Paddock area and has covered table seating for approximately 130 people.
In addition, the track has upgraded food and beverage items in an improved concession area that now has nine themed stations and 25 points of sale. Jordan said the food preparation area has also undergone upgrades, with new equipment added to speed up service.
Several new bars have been developed – appropriately named after Derby winners: the Spend a Buck Bar, the I’ll Have Another Bar, the Behave Yourself Bar and the Regret Bar.
A nice break for track visitors: there will be no immediate increase in concession prices, Jordan said.
The project has included more than 60 staffed pari-mutuel wagering windows, 40 self-serve betting machines – and a more than doubling of both the men’s and women’s restrooms fixtures.
Meanwhile, with upgrades seemingly unending, the track broke ground in January on a $37 million suites tower near Turn 4. The foundation for the tower is in, with work temporarily halted but due to resume after this year’s Derby. The tower suites should be ready for Derby 2018, Jordan said.
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Churchill announced plans for the $37 million project last November. The so-called Starting Gates suites project will encompass approximately 60,000 square feet of new commercial space on the north end of Churchill Downs Racetrack’s 147-acre facility along Central Avenue.
The steel structure, which will feature three floors of individual suites, along with dining and event space, is adjacent to the Jockey Club suites, which opened in 2003. It will host 1,140 ticket guests and boasts 36 new individual suites that can accommodate groups of various sizes, track officials said previously.
Track officials have committed approximately $125 million to major capital improvements over the last eight years.
Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at 502-582-7089, or at email@example.com.
Tags: Calhoun Construction, Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Kevin Flanery, Louisville bars, Louisville Construction Management, Louisville Kentucky, Ryan Jordan, Turf Club